'Candyman' Trailer's Subtle Nods to the Horror Classic

The appearance of franchise star Vanessa Williams suggests that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is playing the baby from the 1992 film.

Universal on Thursday debuted the highly anticipated first trailer for Candyman, satisfying the sweet tooth of horror fans everywhere.

Directed by Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) and written Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, the upcoming film is a “spiritual sequel” to Bernard Rose’s cult classic Candyman (1992), itself based on the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker. Since the film’s announcement in 2018, there has been speculation over how closely the new effort would be tied to the original, and whether Tony Todd, who brought life to the role with an iconic performance in the original movie and two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999), would have a role in this latest incarnation. While the new trailer doesn’t show off the actor, it does highlight a number of connections to the original film along with a compelling new focus.

Candyman is an iconic movie figure, but even more so for black audiences. Yet this pic is the first time a black director and writer have been behind a Candyman film, creating larger significance to the urban legend sprung up from the black housing project Cabrini-Green. Much like the first movie, this new Candyman feels in the vein of what Peele has termed a “social thriller,” but from a new and welcome perspective. Although he did not direct this film, Peele's voice is very present in the trailer from the start.

When Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) breaks down the rules for summoning Candyman to Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) at the start of the trailer, she asks, “Who would do that?” Cut to a lineup of white girls saying "Candyman" in the mirror five times. This kind of sly wit, and the evolution of Phillip Glass’ memorable score to an eerie rendition of “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, gives the trailer its own distinct tone, different from the more classical gothic vibe of Rose’s writing and direction. And DaCosta, who impressed with grounded human portraits of poverty in Little Woods, looks to employ a stylish visual sense that sets the gothic horror of the past against the backdrop of the modern art world — and with no shortage of blood involved in this process. The original pic offered no shortage of gore, and DaCosta looks to follow suit. As Candyman said best, “What’s blood if not for shedding?”

In terms of its other connections to the original, Anthony is the name of the baby who disappears with Candyman in the 1992 film and whose return is brought about by Helen Lyle’s (Virginia Madsen) sacrifice. With this sequel seeming to take place in real time and utilizing flashbacks, if the decidedly '90s-style clothing shown in the opening bathroom scene are any indication, it stands to reason that this Anthony is one and the same, all grown up. Baby Anthony’s mother, Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams), who was prominent in the original film, also appears later in the trailer with the memorable “Don’t.” It appears Anthony, a successful Chicago artist, is drawn back to Cabrini-Green, or the “candy shop,” as Colman Domingo’s character dubs it. But the Candyman doesn’t seem to be up to his same old tricks. Instead, Anthony’s search to explore and expose the urban legend looks to take a turn into the realm of body horror, with him transforming into the monster.

Candyman originally intended for baby Anthony to be his surrogate son, to make up for the child he’d lost in the 1800s when he was a man named Daniel Robitaille, killed by a racist mob after an interracial love affair. It would appear that after all this time, Candyman has come to collect and pass the torch, or hook, on to a successor. No doubt, it won’t be that simple, and DaCosta and Peele are certain to weave contemporary and honest socio-political themes within the established mythology of one of horror’s most beloved, and tragic, villains. Candyman is one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I can’t wait for this new arrival, so go ahead, say his name in the mirror five times. I dare you.